Companion short story to Wizard of Time
Book One: Chasing History Series

Sue Owen
©Copyright 2011 Sue Owen
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Published by Pink Phoenix Publishing

“Ding, Ding” The bell rang as Josh hit it with the palm of his hand.  “Order up!” he shouted out the kitchen window.  “Freaking dumb waitress,” he continued, mumbling under his breath.  “She takes her own sweet time getting the damn orders out to the suckers and then I get blamed when the freaking food is freaking cold.  Damn I hate this job.”  

“Josh.  Get your ass in here!” Stan bellows from the back room. 

“Freaking Stan’s gunna bitch me out again for something stupid, I’ll bet,” he mumbled again as he wiped his hands on his filthy apron and headed toward the back office.  “Yeah, Boss?”  He tried to be respectful but usually came out pretty sarcastic; just like now.

“Josh, I told you over and over to make sure the stove is clean when you get done with shift.  Artie told me it was dirty again this morning under the burners.  You have to take them off completely not just lift the top and wipe.  Do I have to give you another lesson?  If it happens again I’m gunna dock your pay for an hour’s work.  Get it?  Now get your butt back out there. 

“Customers have been complaining again the food’s cold when it gets to them.  Hustle!”  Stan turned back to his desk as the phone rang.  “And close the damn door!” to Josh as Stan answered the phone “Thank you for calling Stanley’s Road House.  This is Stan, may I help you?”

“Jerk.”  Josh said quietly as he closed the door.  “Clean the freaking grill yourself.  Get your fat ass up outta that cushy chair and do some work around here for a change.  Damn I hate this job.”  Josh continued to mumble as he pulled the next order off the wheel. 

After cleaning the grill and closing up, he saw it was past midnight as he clocked out.  Josh walked out to the bus stop to wait for the last bus into town.  One more month, he thinks tonight as he does every night.  Just one more month working here and I’ll have enough saved for my car.  Then I can blow this dump and head down to California.  I hate this town, this job and my life. 

When the bus came, Josh sat in the back.  He hated the smell of beer and whisky that came in waves off the old drunk that always sat up front and the smell of the old woman with her too heavy perfume sitting in the forth seat behind the driver.  Just like always.  Nothing changes, he thinks to himself. 

When he gets off he doesn’t even bother to wave to the driver.  Loser, Josh thinks as he steps onto the pavement.  Josh has been riding this bus at least four days a week for over a year and he doesn’t even know the driver’s name.  He just doesn’t care, which pretty much summarizes Josh’s whole life.  He just doesn’t care.  At 17 he's too young for just about everything he wants to do according to his mom.  Thinking about his mom makes Josh angry all over again.

If it wasn’t for her, he’d been gone long ago.  She worked at the local Food Mart and didn’t earn enough to pay all the bills.  So when Josh was old enough, she made him go to work and start paying rent. 

She was a good enough mom, he supposed but he deeply resented having to give up the life he wanted to support her and her numerous ‘friends.’  He hated it when she brought someone home and he had to pretend he was the good son. 

“It’s all crap,” he said as he opened the back door to their mobile home.

All was quiet.  That was a relief for Josh.  That meant no new guy yet and that was okay with him.  Mom was pretty easy to live with when there wasn’t some loser lying around making her act stupid with trying to impress him.  Josh got a beer from the fridge.  He didn’t care if she liked it or not.  So what.  He liked beer and he wanted one now. 

He flopped on the couch, which was his bed, and flipped on the computer.  His world consisted of a Mage named Daid and the latest raid.  Connection sucked and was really laggy but he didn’t care as he settled into another night of kicking Alliance bootty.  After a bit he turned the computer off, that not even able to hold his attention tonight.  He settled down to sleep.  Another day gone.

The next morning, Josh woke up to his mom yelling at him to get up and take out the trash.  Nothing changes.  He grumbled something meaningless to her as he squeezed past her heading to the bathroom.  He took a pee and a shower, putting on the same clothes he had worn the day before.   

They didn’t smell too bad not that he had much of a choice.  His mom hadn’t gone to the laundry mat yet this week and he didn’t have anything cleaner.  He took out the garbage because he knew if he didn’t he’d never hear the end of it when he finally got home.  Then he headed to the local hangout.

Today was his day off.  He’d been asked by Izzie to join her and her friends shooting a few games of pool that afternoon at Icabods downtown.  He liked Izzie and decided he could put up with her townie friends, even though he hadn’t met them yet.  Townies were all the same.  Boring and too full of themselves. 

He started his day at the local AM/PM chugging cola with the same guys he knew from high school. No good friends, just guys he knew. 

When it was time to meet Izzie, he left the hangout, saying goodbye to his friends among many jeers, and headed to the bus stop.  His friends just loved to tease him when he had a new girl.  They were just jealous, Josh thought, smiling broadly.

He picked Izzie up at the corner of Lombard and the highway and they walked the few blocks to Icabods. 

He'd met Izzie a couple weeks ago at a friend’s house in Portland.  She was from Beaverton, same as him.  Sort of.  He was from the poorer side of town, she from the richer, but he didn’t tell her that.  They had talked for a couple hours at the party and she’d gave him her phone number when he asked.  He never called her though, because his mom wouldn’t get a phone put in.

He’d managed to see her a couple times earlier this week.  Once he was waiting for her outside her school and once ran into her (on purpose) as she was getting off work.  Izzie had dinner at the road house where Josh worked earlier that week with her family and extended the pool invite when she saw him there.  

They chatted happily the few blocks it took to get to Icabods.  Josh wasn’t brave enough yet to hold her hand, he didn’t want to scare her off, so he kept his hands in the pockets of his jeans.  Josh was just a little taller than Izzie and her 5’7” fit just perfect under his chin when he’d casually hugged her goodbye after the party.  She was perfectly built, in Josh’s opinion with curly brown hair that bounced when she walked.  And she smelled like wild flowers.  Very nice.

Josh ran his hand through his longish black hair trying to tame it down a bit.  It was straight but tended to stick up because it was so thick.  Girls loved to run their fingers through it.  Josh hated it.  He was tempted once again to get it cut off completely but knew he’d never hear the end of it from his friends.  Long hair was definitely in. 

Josh was handsome by anyone’s standards.  He had the natural chiseled good looks like a movie star and with deep green eyes that picked up the lights around him and seemed to dance.
Unfortunately, he knew the effect he had on girls and took full advantage of it.  Since 5th grade, he’d taken advantage of it.  He couldn’t remember a time since then that he didn’t have some girl either with him or one he was thinking about dating.  He didn’t, however, ever cheat.  That was just not right.  He liked his girls to be his alone.  He was kind of possessive that way and would devote himself just to that one girl.  Playing the field was just too much work.

The pool hall was crowded already but it was a Saturday after all.  Josh and Izzie found a table in the middle and put their bid down on one of the pool tables then sat back to wait.  After about half an hour, the table they wanted cleared and they began their game. 

After a couple shots each, a short, pudgy kid came in and grabbing Izzie planting a big, juicy kiss right on her lips.  Izzie laughed and playfully pushed him away. 

“Knock it off Eddie!” she exclaimed giving Josh a sideways look to make sure he was paying attention.  He was. 

“Eddie, Matt, Tom … this is Josh.  Remember I told you about him?  I met him at Sandy’s party the other night.”  Josh tried for a smile but it really came out as a smirk as he hit fists with the boys as they were introduced. 

“Josh works out at the road house.  We just started a game.  You guys wanna join?”  She looked at Josh to make sure he was cool with that.  He was. 

“Sure,” says Matt.  “Always glad to take someone else’s money!” 

Josh just smiled.  “Good luck, man.”  The other three just grinned at each other.

“Rack ‘em up again, why don’t cha, Joshey old boy.  Let’s see whatcha got,” from Tom in a smooth, southern drawl.  Matt had gone to get drinks for them from the bar.  He came back just as Josh was resetting the table. 

“You can go first, Tommy old son,” says Josh, imitating Tom’s drawl a bit.  They all laughed.

When the game was done, Josh was up by four quarters and Matt was looking a little taken aback.  “You’ve played a bit before, haven’t you Josh?” 

Josh just laughed.  “A bit, yeah.”  What Josh didn’t say and would never say is that he’d been playing pool at the Boy’s Club around the corner from the trailer park since he was four and got told to “go play outside while Mommie visits with Uncle Whatever-the-Current-Boyfriend-Was.”  He’d been all-city champion for five years in a row when he’d quit playing to take the job at Stanley’s last spring.

The boys seemed to be okay with their loss since it was pretty resounding and they were happy to play a few more games with Josh and get some pointers.  Izzie joined right in which Josh liked about her…she didn’t have to be the center of attention.  After the games, Josh asked Izzie if she wanted to go grab a burger at the local burger joint.  She said yes and they said “later” to the boys and headed out.

The Burger Palace was about a mile from Icabods and they decided to walk.  It was warmish for early spring and felt good to both of them to just walk and talk.  They were enjoying each other’s company and being alone for a bit.  Josh ordered burgers, fries and shakes for them at the Palace and they took a booth towards the back.  They talked some more. 

Izzie had to work the next morning for a few hours.  She worked part time at the local Blockbuster Video Store and Josh walked her home and lightly kissed her on the cheek after giving her a hug and telling her he’d see her the next day.  They’d made arrangements to go see a movie the next afternoon before he had to be at work.

Josh walked to the bus stop, thinking about Izzie and the car he would soon have.  He caught the cross town bus and headed into Portland to visit his friend Charlie.  Charlie was two years older than Josh and lived in an apartment on the East side.  It was a dump and the neighborhood was rough but it was Charlie so he didn’t really care.  Charlie was a 6’3” full back, black as sin and twice as mean.  Josh worshiped him.  Charlie taught him how to play football, how to skip rocks and how to roll a joint.  Charlie was everything Josh wanted to be.

Josh got to Charlie’s just as the sun was setting.  He’d planned to spend the night so it really didn’t matter if he got there after dark or not.  He’d told his mom as he left that he wouldn’t be home that night and she just shrugged and told him to “stay out of jail.  I can’t afford to bail you out again.”   

Charlie never cared if Josh was there or not or when he came.  It was all cool with him.

When Josh walked in there were five or six people there, pretty typical at Charlie’s.  There were always a lot of people hanging around.  Charlie didn’t have much furniture so after Josh grabbed a beer off the counter he sat down next to a guy strumming a guitar on a sleeping bag in the corner. 

“Whatsup,” they said to each other.  That was pretty much how it went for the rest of the night.  The guitar guy ended up being a wanna-be writer and showed off some of his songs which got better as Josh got drunker.  People came in and people left. 

Josh got to talk to Charlie a little bit but just about how the game at the ‘Y’ went the night before … Charlie’s team won again.  Of course.  Josh finally ended up crashing about three in the morning on the sleeping bag he started out on. 

Josh woke up when someone banged on Charlie’s door at 11:00 a.m.  Checking his watch Josh remembered he was going to the movies with Izzie at noon and he still had to shower.  He always had a few clothes at Charlie’s, luckily, so he was able to change into a Blazer’s t-shirt and a cleaner pair of jeans.  Charlie washed Josh’s stuff, and anyone else’s that was left there, when he washed his own clothes. 

Guess he hadn’t washed clothes for a while, thought Josh as he sniffed the pants before putting them on.  Still better than what he wore here, though, so he went with it.

By this time, it was pretty close to noon.  He was going to be late.  He asked when he came in the front room if anyone could give him a lift to Beaverton.  Luckily, the guitar guy was heading that way and was ready to go so Josh hooked a ride with him.  The guy dropped him at the mall which was a mile from Izzie’s.  Josh jogged most of the way so was only half an hour late.

Izzie was waiting for him.  He explained he got stuck in Portland and they started to walk back to the mall where the movie theatre was located.  Luckily they still had plenty of time.  They were about two blocks from Izzie’s house when her phone rang.  She gave Josh an apologetic look and answered it.  She only talked for a second then hung up.  As she was hanging up, a guy that had been watching them as he was walking towards them stopped just short of passing them. 

He said,  “Aren’t you Andrew and Sophia’s son?”  addressing Josh.

“No, I’m not, sorry, bro.”  The guy apologized, gave them a little smile and moved on.  Josh glanced back at him as they continued on and saw him stopped a few paces past where they had talked and was looking at them intensely. 

“That was weird,” said Izzie.  “Did you know that guy?” 

“Naw,” said Josh.  “He’s just some weird guy hoping he’ll get lucky with names and then hit me up for money, happens all the time.”  It didn’t though and Josh was a little freaked out by the whole thing.  Strangers just didn’t talk to him.  Josh looked around again and saw the guy was gone.

Izzie asked if they could stop at the local Albertson’s to get some snacks for the movie.  Since snacks in the movie were always so expensive, Josh figured that was a great idea.  They were paying for their purchases and the guy behind the counter asked Josh how his parents were. 

“My parents?” he asked, confused. 

The guy said.  “Yeah, I see your mom and dad come in here all the time.  Your mom showed me your picture a couple of times.  Andrew has a tough time picking out videos and Sophia isn’t much help,” he said as he waved his arm towards the video selection at the back of the store. 

“They always ask my opinion.”  He grinned as he put their snacks in a bag.  “I’m always happy to give it,” he chuckled.

Josh just mumbled, “they’re fine,” grabbed Izzie’s arm and drug her out of the store. 

“What’s up with that guy?  Josh, are you okay,” Izzie changed her tone when she looked over at Josh and saw how pale he was. 

“I’m fine.  That just freaked me out a bit,” he said as he started to pass her the snacks from the sack to put in her purse. 

“You don’t look very okay.  You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something.  You want to sit down?”  Izzie said as she put the rest of the snacks into her purse. 

“Naw.  Naw.  I’m cool,” Josh remarked as he tossed the sack into the garbage, led her off the steps and started towards the movie theater again.  Moving closer to Josh she took his arm.  They continued onto the movie theatre without anything further happening but Josh kept looking back at the store and around him, wondering.

The movie wasn’t that good and Josh was glad to get out of it.  Izzie didn’t think it was that great either.  Since Josh had to work in a few hours, they just grabbed ice cream cones from the mall as he walked her home, licking the cones and talking about the really bad parts in the movie.  Laughing seemed to help brighten the day and helped Josh forget the weird events that happened earlier. 

Josh didn’t know who his dad was.  He figured his mom probably didn’t either.  But his mom’s name was Jennifer, not Sophia and she’d never be caught on this side of Beaverton.  Ever.  He finally decided in the middle of that really bad movie that it was a case of him looking like someone from around here.  Yeah, that’s it.  I just look like someone, he thought.  Nevertheless, he hurried past the Albertson’s and was very relieved to drop Izzie and catch the bus heading back to the other side of Beaverton.

When he got home, his mom was out.  He knew she didn’t work on Sunday’s so figured she was staying at a ‘friend’s’ house again.  He felt another boyfriend wasn’t too far off.  Great.  Just great, he thought to himself.  Good news was that mom had done laundry so Josh had some clean clothes finally.  He didn’t need to change as he could wear whatever he wanted at work because he had the apron on anyway, but it was nice to know he’d have clean clothes tomorrow.

Just as he was thinking it was time to leave for work, he heard a pounding on the door.  It was the park manager asking for his mom. 

“She’s not here,” Josh said rather disdainfully.  The guy was a maggot.

“Tell her she better pay the two month’s park rent she owes by end of the week or I’m getting this pile of shit towed out of here,” he said disdainfully and handed Josh a piece of paper with “EVICTION” written across the top.  “Make sure she gets that, punk.” 

“Yea.  I’ll do that, jerk,” Josh shot back as he slammed the door in the guy’s face.  “Moron,” Josh said to the closed door.  He tossed the paper on the little table, grabbed his jacket and headed out the back.  He didn’t want to run into that jack ass again.

As Josh was waiting for the bus, he happened to look across the street to the little bakery.  There were always good smells coming out of there.  Josh renewed his vow to stop there someday and get a cinnamon roll.  Damn, they smelled so good. 

The shop had a few little tables out on the side for customers to sit on with red checked tablecloths.  There was a couple at one of the tables, leaning towards each other holding hands.  Ah, isn’t that just so sweet, Josh thought sarcastically.  His eye was caught by the other person outside the shop. 

He wasn’t sitting at the other table, just kind of standing by the door, looking Josh’s direction.  He was short, Josh could tell because his head barely came up to the door handle.  He was wearing a black robe with a black hood that completely covered him.  The robe was way too big for him.  Josh kind of snickered to himself, at least my clothes fit.  Loser, just as the bus pulled up.

Josh walked into work, saying hi to Artie the day cook.  He’s leaving a little early, thought Josh.   

Normally Artie didn’t leave until Josh was there.  He walked back to where the aprons were kept, punched his time card, put on his apron, tying it as he headed back to the kitchen.  Artie always left the kitchen nice and clean so Josh just grabbed the first order off the spiral and started to prepare it.  “Order’s up,” was about all he had to say for a while as he kept busy during the dinner rush hour. 

Stanley’s featured mostly cold sandwiches, hamburgers, fries and milkshakes at night with a full breakfast menu in the mornings.  Josh was responsible for the cooked food, including the sandwiches that occasionally were ordered.  The salads, milkshakes and other cold items were prepared out front by the waitresses. 

There was seating for about 40 people with 4 booths against the windows and 5 tables between the bar and the booths and 5 seats against the bar.  Normally, the place was about ¾ full.  Tonight was no exception.  Josh worked in the back, behind the bar and the walkway the two waitresses used to prepare the cold parts of the orders and serve the bar customers. 

They also had a guy that did the bussing, cleaning off tables and putting dishes in the dishwasher.  They had a kid that came in during the rush hour to pick up the slack with the dishwasher and he usually put dishes away and shagged stuff from the cooler to the waitresses. 

Josh could see into the main dining area and all but two of the tables through the take out window where he put the completed orders for the waitresses.  He spent a lot of time heads down working but liked to watch people as they ate to make sure he wasn’t going to get in trouble for cold food and to keep an eye on the waitresses to make sure they weren’t messing with stuff that he might be blamed for later.

Tonight, he happened to be looking towards the door when a really nice looking girl came in with some dude in a penguin suit.  She had on a prom-type dress, slit up the side and low cut.  Josh smiled to himself.  He liked low cut.  It was some kind of shimmery cloth because it clung to her body when she moved so he was able to see she didn’t have anything on under it. 

Very nice, he thought to himself, smiling wider.  Just then, she looked up and looked directly into his eyes.  She stopped and turned slightly towards him like she was going to say something.  She changed her mind evidently because she turned back and continued after the waitress.  Josh barely glanced at the guy, all his attention on the lady.

During the next half an hour or so, Josh was able to glance up at her a few times.  She sat facing him.  She was watching him every time he looked up.  She never turned away when he caught her eye.  Josh could tell she said little or nothing to her companion because her lips never moved; at least not the times he glanced at her.  She just ate her salad and drank her tea.  But she barely took her eyes off him.  He got busy as she was just finishing up her salad and the next time he was able to look up, she was gone.

Weird.  But very sexy, he thought to himself.  Wouldn’t mind seeing way more of her.  Josh finished up his shift, cleaned the grill, locked up and headed towards the bus stop. 

One more month minus one day, he thought.  The bus came and he headed toward the back as usual.  Past the booze guy, past the lady.  As he got to his normal seat and began to swing into it, he saw it was occupied.  By the little man he had seen at the bakery earlier.  Josh caught himself and sat in the seat just before it.  Wow, that’s really weird.  Talk about coincidence, Josh thought wearily. 

Josh was very uncomfortable during the whole bus ride, feeling the little guy behind him and just knew he was watching him intently.  Josh could feel holes forming in the back of his head.  He was really glad when his stop came and he could stand up.  He headed as fast as he could without running to the front of the bus.  He glanced to the back as he was stepping off but he couldn’t see the man. 

He’s probably just so short I can’t see him above the seat.  There’s no way he could be gone … he would have had to walk right by me and I know I didn’t see him leave.  Josh continued off the bus and started walking towards home.

He rounded the last corner to his house and stopped short.  There, right in front of him completely across the sidewalk was a big, shimmering ring.  Josh could see the cars and sidewalk through it but it looked almost like a film had been placed between the cars and sidewalk on this side and the other. 

“Wow.  That’s way cool,” Josh exclaimed out loud. 

“Thank you.  I kind of like it,” said a tiny voice beside Josh. 

It was the little man.  Josh said, “you!”

“Yes, it’s me.  It has always been me, as a matter of fact.  I don’t believe I have ever been anyone else.  Would you mind stepping through the portal, please?  Now, please.  You are needed on the other side, immediately.”

“I don’t think so, bro,” Josh said and took a step back. 

The little man sighed.  “I was afraid you would say that.”  The little guy waved his arms in kind of a circle and Josh felt his feet leave the ground and felt himself moving towards the ring.

“Hey, what the heck are you doing to me! Put me down NOW!!” Josh screamed. 

“I’m sorry, young master.  But you really have to go through the portal,” Josh heard as he passed out of his reality and through the portal.


To Learn more about Josh and his adventures, read the Chasing History series: Wizard of Time, Defender of Time and Controller of Time available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords.  Also available in Paperback at The Book Patch.

Bonus feature:  Following is the first four pages of Wizard of Time.

Wizard of Time
Book One, Chasing History series
Josh blinked, trying to clear his eyesight.  Where the heck was he?  He registered that the room was dark with a musty smell, like old socks.  He could barely make out shapes but saw what could have been a desk with a big, stuffed chair behind it.  It appeared that books covered all the walls.  The room was large and Josh was at one end of it.  There was a table with chairs in the middle of the room, with the desk at the far end.  He rubbed his hands over his face again, trying to clear his eyesight.

“It doesn’t really help.  That blurriness will go away in a little bit.  Just don’t make any sudden movements and you won’t feel your head.”  Josh spun around and looked to his right where the voice was coming from.  So much for not making sudden movements.  As he turned, his head exploded with pain and he staggered against the wall and promptly sat on the floor.  He moaned.

“I told you not to make any sudden movements,” came the voice again in a softer tone.  Josh could tell it was a girl but couldn’t really make out her features.  

He held his head in his hands.  “Are you sure my head won’t explode?” 

“Yes, I’m sure.  Here.”  She handed him a cool, wet cloth.  “It will pass in a couple of minutes,” she assured him. 

“Thanks,” Josh said.  “Where am I?” he asked between his fingers, afraid to take his hands down for fear his head would explode despite her assurance.

“I’m not sure,” she said cheerily.  “I think this is the Wizard’s house but he’s not been back to tell us.   

We’ve had the full run of the house but the windows and doors won’t open.  This is the library, in case you didn’t see that before you moved.  There’s a small kitchen, couple bedrooms and a bath chamber, but that’s it,” she continued in the same cheerful voice.  “There isn’t a food synthesizer but there’s some kind of metal box next to the sink that has food in it.  Kinda gross to see food uncooked, but at least its eatable.  Well some of it is, anyway.” 

Well that’s weird, Josh thought to himself.  How can she not know what food is?  Before he could think about it anymore, what happened to him came flooding back in one, big, honking memory. 

He had been heading home from the late shift at the diner where he ran the grill.  Burgers, fries, that kind of thing.  Nothing fancy.  He had rounded a corner after getting off the bus and a little man completely covered in a long, dark coat told him to “step through the portal.”  Not being one to do what he’s told, Josh tried to run the other way but the little guy simply pushed him and he went tumbling into the shimmering ring Josh now took to have been a portal, whatever that was. 

“I’m Meri.”  Meri was holding out her hand to Josh expecting him to shake it, he supposed, still kind of groggy and wondering what a synthesizer was, he grabbed her hand and pulled himself up, almost knocking her over.  She recovered nicely and smiled.  “The Wizard must be the little guy in black” he commented, not really needing an answer.  “You said ‘we’ earlier,” Josh said.  “Who’s ‘we’?”  Meri pointed to a corner.

“He doesn’t say much.  His name’s Digger but that’s about all I’ve gotten out of him.  He’s been here for a day; I came last night and now you.”  Meri told him.  Josh could barely make out another person in the corner.  He seemed to melt into the heavy curtains that were covering the window.  If it wasn’t for his blonde hair he probably wouldn’t have been visible at all. 

Josh could see he had some kind of backpack or bag in his hand but couldn’t really make out what it was.  Digger sat the bag on the floor in the corner and raised his hand slightly in way of a greeting to Josh.  Josh did the same and turned back to Meri. 

Meri took the cloth Josh handed to her and set it on the table.  She picked up a glass that was there and handed it to him.  “Water.  Drink.”  Josh took a tentative sip and found it was pretty good so drank it and handed Meri back the empty glass.  His eyesight was beginning to return to normal like she had said.

“Feeling better?” she asked after a little bit. 

“Yup.”  Josh tried a smile.  That didn’t hurt too bad.  “I’m Josh.  So what’s going on?  Do you know?” 

She grinned at him.  “Not really.  All I know is that the Wizard will explain everything when he gets here.” 
Since he had to wait, Josh figured he’d take a look around.  After a bit of exploring he too found doors locked and windows that wouldn’t open.  He even found the kitchen like Meri said. 

Waiting wasn’t something Josh did well and he was going to have a few words to say to the Wizard when he returned but for now he figured he was stuck and would take the time to appraise the situation a bit and see what the others had to say.  Maybe there was something they knew that could get him out of there.  He returned to the study thinking he could talk to the other two to find out what else they knew.  After all, they appeared to be in the same boat as he was. 

Meri was standing with Digger by the window trying to get a look outside.  He headed over to see, too.   

From the corner by the door a noise like a whisper drew their attention.  Digger stepped back into the shadows.  “Looks like the Wizard has arrived,” Josh said as they saw a little man materialize in the corner.   

The Wizard was holding a long stick with some kind of glowing gem on the end of it.  He tapped it sharply on the floor and the room was flooded with lights.  The three by the window all exclaimed and put their hands over their eyes.  The little Wizard saw the gesture and giggled.  “Lights” he said rather mischievously.

“Yeah, we got that,” said Josh, not bothering to hide his sarcasm.  “What is going on old man?  We need some answers.  Where are we and why are you keeping us here?”  Josh got out as he was holding his hand in front of his face, protecting his eyes against the light.  “All in good time, all in good time.”  The Wizard said almost in a whisper.  Josh snorted.  He didn’t like being dismissed out of hand.  Before he could start up again, he felt a hand on his arm.  Meri.  She whispered, “give it a minute, okay?”  Josh subsided reluctantly hoping she knew what she was doing. 

Once Josh’s eyes adjusted to the light, he peered around the room.  The light was coming from eight sconces set in the wall about three quarters of the way up; four on each side.  They flickered like candles.  Josh fleetingly wondered how the wizard had lit them all but was distracted by the wizard himself. 

Now that Josh was seeing the little man again, he remembered that he had seen him several times in the week before the portal incident.  Once outside his trailer park at the little bakery, once outside his friend Charlie’s house in southeast Portland and again on the bus last week as he was heading to work. 

The old guy had apparently been following Josh.  He was clueless as to why.  He thought of himself as an ordinary teenager; almost 6 feet tall with wavy brown hair that fell over his eyes a bit.  Girls considered him good looking and he didn’t see any reason to doubt them.  He wasn’t vain about his looks but made sure to take care of himself and wore things that were stylish rather than shabby.  However, none of that, in Josh’s mind would be any reason to single him out for a little jaunt in a portal.  And he still didn’t know where he was.  As he was opening his mouth to give the Wizard a piece of his mind and get some questions answered, the Wizard had other plans.

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